Collaboration and Teamwork – practice makes perfect.

So the 2010 World Cup ended this past Sunday and I’m going through withdrawals. (I am a bit fanatical about football/soccer. I’m card carrying member of Wednesdayite, that’s seriously a burden of love.) So pardon me, if I use a picture of La Furia Roja to illustrate this post that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

There’s a cliche we joke with here at my work: “When it’s teamwork, it doesn’t seem work.” Feel free to roll your eyes, but it’s sort of true. If you can work and collaborate as a team, it can make things more enjoyable and less tedious. Idle chit chat can work wonders. I think lots of people could agree on that. Teamwork is also important for committees and group projects. Writing a strategic plan? Need lots of input? Work together! Again, it can make something bearable. This isn’t really a new concept and I think most people would agree on it.

My problem (other than the way England performed at the World Cup) is that I’m tired of the culture that we will only collaborate or share in formal settings. It’s all fine and dandy to have a committee to tackle a group project, but how can you find out a committee is required? What if it’s not so codified?

What I’m getting at is that I want librarians to be more open with what they’re doing with their colleagues. This goes for all of us. It sort of reminds me of some of the talks I’ve had about data sharing – people want to see other people’s stuff but don’t want to have to share their own. Perhaps this is residual from SLA networking, but it just astonishes me how little we know about what each of us do. I want to know about your work minutiae because you might have a technique to tackle it that I could borrow, or vice versa. Yeah, we all have different jobs and different responsibilities, but none of this are really all that unique. I say this as a member of a relatively small cadre of transportation librarians.

The thing that killed me recently was seeing one of my colleagues talking about an idea that they had which there is actually a committee working on tackling. This person, rather than participating in said committee, has decided they need to write a formal proposal on their own and then present it to the group (which group?) later. This seems akin to playing basketball by themselves when there’s a game they could join the next court over. They might want to play with others, but it has to be on their terms. I can understand wanting to have organized thoughts and a proposal, but if there is a group already working on the problem, get involved! Otherwise you’re just adding to the silos.

Last week I sort of put a call out to my colleagues about a project I’m working on – making a taxonomy for navigating/organizing transportation websites – looking for potential collaborators and just to let people know what I’m thinking about. It was great because turns out somebody else is working on the same thing. I made it clear that I wanted to work together because I want whatever the outcome is to be usable for as many people as possible, so they don’t have to do this work. It was not revolutionary, but it’s also not a common goal (without a committee that is).

So what’s the point? I think we need to promote a culture of sharing and openness of practically everything. Not just finished projects, but just sharing your work opens up opportunities for collaboration and working with people you might not even think about. It’s amazing how it also sort of humanizes people. (“Oh you’re doing that on top of all that other stuff? Wow. Nevermind about my silly request…”) If you value the community, you need to be a part of it. Networks need nodes to have value, so be a good node!

Really? What are you up to? I want to know!

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